The Art of Trapping Monkeys

on Sunday, 08 March 2015. Posted in Step 1, 12 Step Attitude

Learning what 'surrendering' really means.

Before finally giving up, we had tried one or the other of two options: On the one hand, we expressed our obsession by acting it out. On the other hand, we tried suppressing it by drinking, drugging, eating, [any form of immersing ourselves in our addiction], or by fighting it with white-knuckle will power. And with what a show of promises and resolutions! Many of us switched from acting out to suppression, back and forth. Neither option brought us the peace we sought so desperately.

Expressing the obsession made it progress relentlessly, on and on, and suppressing it only made the pressure build inside until something had to give. We never knew there was another option - surrender. What a beautiful word to those of us who do it! Surrender is letting go!


African hunters have a clever way of trapping monkeys.

They slice a coconut in two, hollow it out, and in one half of the shell cut a hole just big enough for a monkey's hand to pass through. Then they place an orange in the other coconut half before fastening together the two halves of the coconut shell. Finally, they secure the coconut to a tree with a rope, retreat into the jungle, and wait.

Sooner or later, an unsuspecting monkey swings by, smells the delicious orange, and discovers its location inside the coconut. The monkey then slips his hand through the small hole, grasps the orange, and tries to pull it through the hole. Of course, the orange won't come out; it's too big for the hole. To no avail the persistent monkey continues to pull and pull, never realizing the danger he is in.

While the monkey struggles with the orange, the hunters simply stroll in and capture the monkey by throwing a net over him. As long as the monkey keeps his fist wrapped around the orange, the monkey is trapped.

It's too bad the poor monkey could save its own life if it would only let go of the orange. It rarely occurs to a monkey, however, that it can't have both the orange and its freedom. That delicious orange becomes a deadly trap.


Merely knowing and admitting we were powerless over our addiction- whatever form our acting out took- didn't help until we gave up our right to do and let it go. There was no mistaking this change of heart when it happened; we knew and those about us knew. There is no faking surrender. And thank G-d, when we did give up and stop fighting, He was always there, waiting with open arms. Instead of killing us as we had feared, surrender killed the compulsion!

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